Kyle Clayton
Ceri Godinez, new reporter at the CVN.

After an uneventful 14-hour drive through -40 degree weather in the Yukon, it took me less than 48 hours to run into car trouble in Haines. On Sunday, I backed my green, 1999 Subaru into a snowdrift on Porcupine Road while trying to turn around. 

Though I have lived in Alaska for the past two years since moving from Los Angeles, as I pressed the gas pedal and my tires spun without gaining traction, I’d never felt more like an idiot Southern Californian. Here I was in this town full of self-reliant people like my new roommate who’s making a pair of mukluks and aspires to live alone in the wilderness, and I’d promptly rendered myself helpless.

My roommate, Ashley Pugh, who encouraged me to continue driving as the snow on the road deepened, laughed as though our situation were amusing. I began making plans to leave my car and return in the spring to avoid the humiliation of asking a stranger for help. She said that was unnecessary and suggested we call Scott Rossman, who was likely out on his Sunday drive to Mile 33.

Three hours later, having run from a moose, rescued Ashley’s dog from the river, and watched as Rossman yanked my car out of the snow like a stump from the ground, I found myself at 33 Mile, eating an omelet and listening to his first-hand account of an eagle that had swiped a pet parrot off the deck of a yacht in the harbor.

Rossman advised me that I should tell people that I am from Anchorage rather than California or Los Angeles. Although, he didn’t seem to think Anchorage was a much better option. As people have been telling me since my arrival in Haines, “the best thing about Anchorage is that it’s only a short drive from Alaska.” 

Like many transplants, I was originally sold on Alaska during a summer working a seasonal job. After graduating from Yale with a bachelor’s in film and media studies, I began looking for a way to get back to Alaska and ended up working for a member of the State House of Representatives. As a legislative aide, my job was to sound like a 60-year-old man, responding to constituents and presenting bills before committees on behalf of my boss.

While the Legislature was a good crash course in all things Alaska, I was increasingly interested in writing in my own voice and had heard that journalism was a good line of work for people who want a more socially acceptable way to pepper others with questions. A visiting professor at the University of Anchorage, Larry Persily, made me aware that the Chilkat Valley News was hiring and encouraged me to apply. The result was my first job in journalism.

From what I’ve experienced since arriving in Haines last Friday, I’m excited to start the next chapter of my life in the “real” Alaska. When not working for the paper, I plan to spend my time outside. My favorite activity is rock climbing, so I will end this with a shameless plug for climbing partners. If anyone is looking for a partner once the weather warms up or has any intel about local climbing opportunities, please let me know.